Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
The global site for cruising sailors
Sections
You are here: Home / Countries / South Africa
By No owner — last modified Mar 17, 2016 09:43 PM

 South Africa - Formalities

Clearance

Entry to South Africa can only be made at one of the Ports of Entry.

The Q flag must be flown.

On approaching a port, call the Port Authorities on VHF channel 12 or 16. Do not be surprised if you fail to get a response. Although  all the required officials  are expected to visit the boat, it is much more likely that you will need to visit all the offices yourself. A local taxi can help you do this. This will avoid a possible fine for clearing in more than 24 hours after arrival.

Inward clearance must be made with the Port Authority/Harbour Police, Immigration and Customs.

Cape Town and Richards Bay are the best ports for clearing into the country as they have more experience in handling foreign yachts.

Departure

Before departure, a letter or form must be obtained from each of the marinas or yacht clubs you have visited stating that all dues have been paid. This is required before completing departure clearance with Customs and Immigration.

When moving to another South African port, a cruising itinerary (time of departure, intended destination, and ETA) must be lodged with the Port Authority. This only applies if leaving a Port of Entry.

The rules applicable for the entry and exit clearance procedures in South Africa are changeable.

Last updated March 2016.

Immigration

Passports must be valid at least six months beyond arrival in the country.

Most nationalities do not require visas and a 90 day stay is normally granted on arrival.  See note on visa extensions below.

For an up to date list of countries exempt from South African visas see: http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/immigration-services/exempt-countries

Obtaining a multi-entry visa before arriving will make it simpler for you to leave the yacht and fly home before returning.

There are South African embassies in Port Louis (Mauritius) and St Denis (Réunion). The rules on needing a face to face interview and having biometric data recorded when obtaining a visa are being eased (Nov 2015) and the biometric data is to be collected on entry to South Africa. Check with the nearest embassy if this will apply to you.

Passports are not normally stamped on arrival. If wishing to leave a yacht and travel within South Africa, it is essential to get the passport stamped.

Note: If you enter the country by yacht, and leave by another means and then return, you will not re-start the visa clock. Therefore on return, you will still only have 90 days from your original entry left to stay in SA, unless you have a multi-entry visa.

It may also be possible to get a Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) as owner of a yacht by proving ownership, and as crew by possessing an air ticket home or equivalent funds.

Any crew leaving the country by other means than by yacht must inform Immigration and must possess a valid air ticket to their own country or equivalent funds. Immigration must also be notified if a South African national joins the yacht for a cruise while in South African waters.

Visa Extensions

All immigration approvals are now run from Pretoria, so extensions beyond an additional 3 months are highly unlikely.

Extensive paperwork is required for an extension and a fee is charged before your application will be accepted. The official requirement is to apply well in advance, but the practice is that those who do often lose a month or more from their original visa as the new one applies immediately. Many people find themselves travelling and are only able to apply for an extension a week or so before it expires.

Cruisers report that results of applications can vary widely, from not getting an extension until well after the previous visa has expired, to getting an extension from date of application (thus negating any time left on the first visa).

It is therefore advisable to secure your visa extension first before purchasing flights out of South Africa as changing flight dates can be very expensive.

Another perfectly acceptable method of extending your stay in South Africa is to pay a visit to Zimbabwe, Botswana or Namibia just before the visa expires. This will enable you to obtain a new 3 month visa when you return to South Africa. Travelling to Swaziland or Lesotho won't work.

Last updated October 2015.

Customs

Length of Stay

It has been confirmed by Cape Town Customs that visiting foreign yachts can stay in South Africa indefinitely and no Duties and VAT will become liable.

See this report for more details (July 2015).

Note: Between September 2012/2013 Customs in Richards Bay, Durban, Port Owen and Suldana started enforcing a 6 month time limit for visiting foreign yachts, and charging large fines to many foreign cruisers. In actual fact this 6 month limit is supposed to only apply to commercial vessels, and SARS ruled on 3 September 2013 that the attachment of any yachts would be stopped and all yacht owners who had paid fines were entitled to a full refund. See news article for full details.

Other Customs Rules

All sealable goods must be declared. This includes all tobacco, spirits, drugs, etc.

Firearms will be sealed by Customs on board if this is possible. Otherwise firearms will be removed and bonded until departure.

Visiting yachts should be able to obtain a tax refund on goods bought in South Africa in the 3 months prior to leaving. (see comment below.) An original VAT invoice should be requested when purchasing such goods. Customs should be then contacted for the necessary formalities. Yachts in transit may be able to buy yacht equipment VAT free.

To get goods with a value over R500 out of Customs you need a clearing agent. Be careful as agent fees can vary widely. Be sure to ask around and get some quotes before appointing an agent. Find out if they deliver to your marina.

The postal and delivery services can be very unreliable. It is advisable, if possible, not to expect a delivery to arrive before you need to leave.

Last updated March 2016..

Health

A yellow fever vaccination certificate may be requested if arriving from some African countries.

Malaria prophylaxis is recommended.

Fees

Clearance is a 24-hour/365 day service, but overtime may be charged after 1630 on weekdays, public holidays and at weekends. Noonsite has been advised that there are no fees charged at Richards Bay whatever the time of arrival.

Pilotage service is free.

Restrictions

The diamond producing areas off Oranjemund are off limits to yachts.

Yachts can anchor in Murray's Bay in the NE of Robben Island, but must first contact Robben Island Port Control on Channel 16 for permission to enter the zone.

Anchorage is allowed at Dassen Island, but landing is forbidden.

There is a naval base in Simon's Town, False Bay, and yachts must arrange permission to enter the bay in advance with the False Bay Yacht Club, or contact the Navy on VHF Channel 16 for permission to enter.

Pets

An Import Permit must be obtained from Director of Animal Health, The Director, Animal Health Import Export Policy Unit, Pretoria 0001 South Africa.

Quarantine information can be obtained from :-
Johannesburg
Tel: +27 (0) 11973 2827
Fax: +27 (0) 11973 2828
Durban
Tel: +27 (0) 31 368 6011
Fax: +27 (0) 31 337 7469
Cape Town
Tel: +27 (0) 21 551 2050
Fax: +27 (0) 31 337 1378

Share |
wapiti
wapiti says:
Mar 16, 2016 01:03 AM

Further to my comment about a lost customs claim refund posted December 2014 subsequently all the documentation was returned to me last year stating the claim was invalid because it had not been submitted in time. In fact it was submitted on 12 May 2014 the day before our departure and was lost by customs. I recommend that all yachts should be very careful if they hope to have a claim for VAT refund on capital purchase to be refunded.

MasterAthena
MasterAthena says:
May 02, 2015 03:55 AM

I practised as a barrister - and a solicitor - in south Africa for many years. Yacht Silvercloud has it exactly right. Show your teeth and you'll have no further trouble.You can threaten them with your embassy too - its a lot cheaper than a lawyer!

yachtsilvercloud
yachtsilvercloud says:
Jan 14, 2015 06:13 AM

The SA authorities are mostly run by disgruntled whites or unqualified blacks. They seem to make their own laws outside the real laws. Use a good maritime lawyer and they will back down quickly. There is no need to involve any yacht club or make payments to private yacht clubs as that is not law. Nor can they insist on anything other than international laws pertaining to visiting boats. Right in the beginning of the real law foreign registered boats are excluded. Insist on your rights or take them on.

wapiti
wapiti says:
Dec 05, 2014 03:57 AM

We left South Africa in May 2014 and put in a claim for a customs refund on over 200,000 rand for goods supplied which was worth about $3000.We waited 3 months and contacted the refund company who had no knowledge of our claim. After repeated emails and letters we have not received anything and now regard it as lost by South African Customs (SARS)

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Dec 26, 2013 08:18 AM

Having investigated the above comment it appears that this regulation/inspection only applies to commercial boats over 7m. The author operates a charter boat out of Richards Bay.

Izak Labuschagne
Izak Labuschagne says:
Dec 19, 2013 05:29 AM

We were informed by a South African Maritime Safety Authority yesterday that any foreign vessels arriving in South Africa without or with lapsed safety certificates will need to undergo a SAMSA safety inspection. The requirements are set out at http://www.samsa.org.za/category/social-tags/checklist and http://www.samsa.org.za/content/small-vessels. They informed us that we would need to unpack everything so that they can inspect all bulkheads, frames and stringers.

South Africa
Cape Town (Table Bay)
Durban
East London
Hout Bay
Knysna
Mossel Bay
Port Alfred
Port Elizabeth
Richards Bay
Saldanha Bay
Simon's Town
St Helna Bay & Port Owen
St. Francis Bay
Profile
Facts
Security
Weather
Main Ports
Formalities
Clearance
Immigration
Customs
Health
Documents
Fees
Restrictions
Local Customs
Clearance Agents
Pets
General Info
Time Zone
Yachting Essentials
Opening Hours
Money
Communications
Transport
Diplomatic Missions
Events
Emergencies
Publications
Links
Update History
Countries
Albania
Algeria
American Samoa
Angola
Anguilla
Antarctica
Antigua & Barbuda
Argentina
Aruba
Ascension Island
Australia
Azores
BIOT (Chagos)
Bahamas
Bahrain
Barbados
Belgium
Belize
Bermuda
Bonaire
Bosnia
Bouvetoya
Brazil
British Virgin Islands
Brunei
Bulgaria
Cambodia
Canada
Canary Islands
Cape Verdes
Cayman Islands
Channel Islands
Chile
China
Christmas Island
Cocos Keeling
Colombia
Comoros
Cook Islands
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cuba
Curacao
Cyprus
Denmark
Djibouti
Dominica
Dominican Republic
East Timor (Timor Leste)
Easter Island
Ecuador
Egypt
El Salvador
Eritrea
Estonia
Falkland Islands
Faroe Islands
Federated States of Micronesia
Fiji
Finland
France
French Guiana
French Polynesia
French Subantarctic Territory
Galapagos
Gambia
Georgia
Germany
Gibraltar
Greece
Greenland
Grenada
Guadeloupe
Guam
Guatemala
Guinea-Bissau
Guyana
Haiti
Hawaii
Heard, McDonald & Macquarie Islands
Honduras
Hong Kong
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Ivory Coast
Jamaica
Japan
Jordan
Juan Fernandez Islands
Kenya
Kiribati
Kuwait
Latvia
Lebanon
Libya
Lithuania
Macau
Madagascar
Madeira
Malaysia
Maldives
Malta
Marion & Prince Edward Island
Marshall Islands
Martinique
Mauritania
Mauritius
Mayotte
Mexico
Monaco
Montenegro
Montserrat
Morocco
Mozambique
Myanmar (Burma)
Namibia
Nauru
Netherlands
New Caledonia
New Zealand
New Zealand's Subantarctic Islands
Nicaragua
Niue
Norfolk Island
Northern Marianas
Norway
Oman
Palau (Belau)
Panama
Papua New Guinea
Peru
Philippines
Pitcairn Island
Poland
Portugal
Puerto Rico
Qatar
Reunion Island
Romania
Russia
Saba
Samoa
Sao Tome and Principe
Saudi Arabia
Senegal
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Singapore
Sint Maarten
Slovenia
Solomon Islands
Somalia
South Africa
South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands
South Korea
Spain
Spanish Virgin Islands
Sri Lanka
St Barts
St Helena
St Kitts & Nevis
St Lucia
St Martin
St Pierre & Miquelon
St Vincent & the Grenadines
Statia
Subantarctic & Southern Ocean Islands
Sudan
Suriname
Sweden
Syria
Taiwan
Tanzania
Thailand
Tokelau
Tonga
Trinidad & Tobago
Tristan da Cunha
Tunisia
Turkey
Turks & Caicos
Tuvalu
US Virgin Islands
USA
Ukraine
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
Uruguay
Vanuatu
Venezuela
Vietnam
Wallis and Futuna
Yemen
Add/Update Your Business
If you would like your business to be listed, or the details are wrong, please update your business
Related Reports
Report Icon

Indian Ocean Charm: From Thailand to the Cape of Good Hope (17 Oct 2016)

Report Icon

Cruising South Africa, 2016: The inside "scoop" (16 Jun 2016)

South Africa, Port Owen: Highly Recommended for Extended Stay

South Africa, Port Owen: Highly Recommended for Extended Stay (25 Apr 2016)

Report Icon

South Africa Clearance & Cruising Information (29 Feb 2016)

Report Icon

Crossing the Indian Ocean Guide 2015 (05 Jan 2016)

Mozambique Channel Hideaway near the Bazaruto Archipelago

Mozambique Channel Hideaway near the Bazaruto Archipelago (11 Dec 2015)

Report Icon

Madagascar Cruising Notes (27 Oct 2015)

Time Allowed Before Duty and VAT is Attached to Foreign Flagged Pleasure Vessels Staying in South Africa

Time Allowed Before Duty and VAT is Attached to Foreign Flagged Pleasure Vessels Staying in South Africa (01 Jul 2015)

Report Icon

South Africa, Cape Town: Recommendation for Royal Cape Yacht Club (26 Mar 2015)

Crossing the Indian Ocean - May 2014

Crossing the Indian Ocean - May 2014 (29 Oct 2014)

South Africa: Richards Bay & Simon's Town

South Africa: Richards Bay & Simon's Town (25 Mar 2014)

South Africa, Cape Town: Latest Changes to the Rules for Clearing Out

South Africa, Cape Town: Latest Changes to the Rules for Clearing Out (19 Mar 2014)

Report Icon

South African Radio Nets - Updated (17 Mar 2014)

Overland trucking to avoid the Red Sea

Overland trucking to avoid the Red Sea (21 May 2013)

Report Icon

Somalia: South African cruising couple finally FREE plus Their Account of being Held Hostage (20 Jul 2012)

Report Icon

BRally January 2013: Why not include Southern Brazil on your cruising route? (16 Jul 2012)

Report Icon

Five Months in Hout Bay, Cape Town. (02 Jul 2012)

Report Icon

An Alternative to GOA and the Red Sea: Desert Sailing (07 May 2012)

Report Icon

Cape to Rio Yacht Race 2014: NOR Now Available (23 Apr 2012)

Report Icon

Recommendation for spare engine parts (26 Jan 2012)

Report Icon

Useful Information when sailing down the SA Coast (12 Jan 2012)

Report Icon

Knysna - Worth the Effort (02 Dec 2011)

Report Icon

Zululand Yacht Club, Richards Bay (08 Nov 2011)

Report Icon

Founder of Radio Net goes SK (Silent Key) (18 Feb 2011)

Report Icon

Reply to Poor Service from Quantum Sails (10 Jan 2011)

Report Icon

Excellent Service in Cape Town (30 May 2010)

Report Icon

Richards Bay, South Africa (21 Jan 2010)

Report Icon

Saldanha Bay as a Port of Clearance (09 Jan 2010)

Report Icon

Additional Information Regarding South African Visas (24 Aug 2009)

Report Icon

Richards Bay: Tuzi Gazi & Zululand Yacht Club (22 Jan 2009)

Report Icon

Richards Bay: A Pleasurable Stay at ZLYC (28 Sep 2008)

Report Icon

Caribbean to West Africa (10 Jul 2008)

Report Icon

USA, Florida to Cape Town, South Africa (22 May 2008)

Report Icon

Winter crossing of the South Atlantic (22 May 2008)

Report Icon

South Africa, Cape Town to Rio de La Plata, Argentina (22 May 2008)

Report Icon

South Africa, Cape Town to Thailand (15 May 2008)

Report Icon

Malaysia - Cape Town - Uruguay (15 May 2008)

Report Icon

Customs Problems In Suldanha Bay? (14 Feb 2008)

Report Icon

Richards Bay: Not piracy but an invasion of our privacy (29 Jan 2008)

Report Icon

Comments on Zululand Yacht Club (08 Jan 2008)

Report Icon

South Atlantic Circuit (10 Feb 2006)

Report Icon

Durban October 2001 (22 Aug 2002)

Report Icon

The Latest on Durban Formalities (22 Aug 2002)

Report Icon

Update East London by MIZ MAE (22 Aug 2002)

Related News
South Africa, Simon's Town: No Longer Necessary to Report to Cape Town

South Africa, Simon's Town: No Longer Necessary to Report to Cape Town   (28 Mar 2017)

Southern Indian Ocean Rescue: Yacht dismasted

Southern Indian Ocean Rescue: Yacht dismasted  (19 Mar 2017)

Sea Kidnappings Rise Despite Plummeting Global Piracy

Sea Kidnappings Rise Despite Plummeting Global Piracy   (06 Feb 2017)

World ARC: Rally Fleets Set Sail from  Saint Lucia and Cape Town

World ARC: Rally Fleets Set Sail from Saint Lucia and Cape Town  (09 Jan 2017)

South Africa, Cape Town: Lives lost when cruising yacht runs aground off West Coast

South Africa, Cape Town: Lives lost when cruising yacht runs aground off West Coast  (10 Feb 2016)

South Africa: Overturned catamaran discovered 1 year after South African yachtsmen go missing - Updated

South Africa: Overturned catamaran discovered 1 year after South African yachtsmen go missing - Updated  (02 Feb 2016)

Report Icon

Long-Distance Cruising Couple have to abandon their yacht between Reunion and Madagascar  (14 Jan 2016)

International yachts arriving in South Africa experienced first 'southerly buster' in years

International yachts arriving in South Africa experienced first 'southerly buster' in years  (03 Nov 2015)

Report Icon

South Africa: Two men missing from overturned French catamaran found alive  (22 Oct 2015)

The Tragic Loss of Carly Hill

The Tragic Loss of Carly Hill  (24 Jun 2015)

SPOUSE OVERBOARD: Cruising Legend Pete Hill Loses Wife Carly Off Coast of South Africa

SPOUSE OVERBOARD: Cruising Legend Pete Hill Loses Wife Carly Off Coast of South Africa  (22 Jun 2015)

Report Icon

Southern Indian Ocean: Missing South African yacht search focuses west of Perth, Australia  (11 Mar 2015)

World ARC: Rally Fleets Set Sail From Saint Lucia and Cape Town

World ARC: Rally Fleets Set Sail From Saint Lucia and Cape Town  (12 Jan 2015)

Race from South Africa to St. Helena this December

Race from South Africa to St. Helena this December  (08 Sep 2014)

Report Icon

Tsunami test across Indian Ocean beginning 9 September  (08 Sep 2014)

South Africa: Clarification of the Current Regulations for Cruisers

South Africa: Clarification of the Current Regulations for Cruisers  (27 Apr 2014)

Indian Ocean Crossing 2014/15 to South Africa

Indian Ocean Crossing 2014/15 to South Africa  (14 Jan 2014)

Indian Ocean: Two vessels attacked in four days indicates resurgence of Somali piracy

Indian Ocean: Two vessels attacked in four days indicates resurgence of Somali piracy  (18 Oct 2013)

South Indian Ocean: Navigational Warning for Mozambique Channel

South Indian Ocean: Navigational Warning for Mozambique Channel  (08 Oct 2013)

Southern Indian Ocean: Missing sailor Eddie Anker now presumed lost

Southern Indian Ocean: Missing sailor Eddie Anker now presumed lost  (30 Sep 2013)

South Africa:  Yacht owners who have paid Customs fines can claim a full refund

South Africa: Yacht owners who have paid Customs fines can claim a full refund  (18 Sep 2013)

Report Icon

South Africa: More Ports Charging Import Tax on Foreign Yachts   (23 Aug 2013)

South Africa: Sailor Saves Dog, then Wife

South Africa: Sailor Saves Dog, then Wife  (08 Aug 2013)

Great New Service for noonsite users: Get notified of cruising news, reports and country updates as they are posted

Great New Service for noonsite users: Get notified of cruising news, reports and country updates as they are posted  (23 May 2013)

June 8th is World Oceans Day: Create or Join an event near you

June 8th is World Oceans Day: Create or Join an event near you  (17 May 2013)

Yacht Search: Call out for overdue sailor in the Indian Ocean

Yacht Search: Call out for overdue sailor in the Indian Ocean  (17 May 2013)

Report Icon

South Africa, Cape Town: World ARC 2012/2013 sets sail for St. Helena and then Brazil  (08 Jan 2013)

Report Icon

Simon’s Town, South Africa to St. Helena: The Governor’s Cup starts Saturday 22 December  (18 Dec 2012)

Report Icon

South Africa, Cape Town: New Regulations for Clearing In and Out  (24 Nov 2012)

Report Icon

Solo Sailor Rescued after drifting for 11 weeks  (25 Apr 2012)

Report Icon

Year later, still no release for SA hostage couple  (09 Feb 2012)

Report Icon

New container collision incident off South Africa  (10 Nov 2011)

Report Icon

Somalia: Abducted Durban cruising couple calls family  (20 Oct 2011)

Report Icon

Pirate Kidnap Ordeal: South African Family Speaks of Anguish  (24 Sep 2011)

Report Icon

British sailors missing at sea between South Africa and Australia  (08 Sep 2011)

Report Icon

West Africa: Copycat Piracy Cause for Concern  (08 Sep 2011)

Report Icon

Routing: Getting Back to Europe - Avoiding GOA and the Red Sea  (19 Aug 2011)

Report Icon

Somali pirates jailed in Netherlands for Choizil hijack  (15 Aug 2011)

Report Icon

News of the South African Couple Held Hostage  (04 Feb 2011)

Report Icon

Somalia: South African Sailors Held Hostage - Update  (12 Nov 2010)

Report Icon

South Africa: Yacht collision with cargo ship  (12 Nov 2010)

Report Icon

Somalia: Hijacked Yacht Skipper Safe, Crew taken Hostage  (09 Nov 2010)

Report Icon

Forty-ton whale lands on cruising yacht off Cape Town   (21 Jul 2010)

Report Icon

Mozambique: Durban Sailors Vicitims of Armed Robbery at Anchor  (16 Jul 2010)

Report Icon

Governors' Cup 2010 - From Capetown To St. Helena   (31 Mar 2010)

Report Icon

World ARC Circumnavigators head into the South Atlantic  (04 Jan 2009)

Report Icon

Fred Meyer - Radio "PiriPiri"  (28 Aug 2008)

Report Icon

New Cruising Guide to Durban Available on the Internet  (11 Dec 2004)